Tips for music competition success

In last week’s Queensland Eisteddfod my adjudication comments often echoed an email to my students who also faced competitions.

How to prepare for a competition (or concert)

In the warmup room

• SLOW scales, long notes
• Play any tricky bars at HALF speed
• Hand on forehead and slow deep breaths calms excess adrenaline.
• Buzz lips to prevent tension squeaks (clarinet and saxophone).
• Stand against a wall for upright posture.Main illus man head LR
• BREATHE!

In the performance

Walk on with upright posture that says ‘I am the greatest!’
If people clap, bow. Prime friends to clap so you can bow.
If an MC doesn’t do so, introduce your piece in a big clear voice; look at the audience not your music.
Tune to piano/other players. Nod ‘I’m ready.’
Take a moment to poise.
Eye contact – give a clear upbeat in the tempo you really mean.
Play out with a big, round, beautiful tone.

If things go wrong

Expect your pianist to follow you. Rescue with a clear downbeat, eye contact or gesture; also to indicate if you need time for well-chosen breaths.
A glitch, wobbly bow or fluffed note is not doom.
I tell my clarinet students ‘If you squeak, make it a good one!’
KEEP GOING – DON’T STOP.
Think ‘Even though I stuff up I love and respect and appreciate myself!’

Stand out from the crowdSax crop

When many deserve places the adjudicator prays for someone to shine.

Exaggerate dynamics so the adjudicator thinks ‘ah, musical!’ Feel free to add more.

Communicate with listeners—they love that!
Play musically with beautiful tone, and above all…
ENJOY your music! Have fun!

After the last cadence

Bow and acknowledge the pianist.
Smile–whatever happened in performance is your secret.
‘I’m proud of you for learning, practising and polishing, and presenting your pieces. If you gain a place, that’s the icing on a tasty cake.’ 

Book launchBML Cover med

My latest book Burn My Letters launched at Byron Bay Writers Festival on Friday. The Brisbane launch on Saturday 13 August at Queensland Multicultural Centre is ’ticketed’ for space and catering. It’s nearly full house so do reply email if you’d like to come.

My interview on Radio 4EB FM is online for a week. Scroll through to Breakfast with BEMAC; the interview is 21 minutes in.

Books are available with Paypal and at IngramSpark and Mary Ryans bookshops.

Artwork credit: John Harrison

In last week’s Queensland Eisteddfod my adjudication comments often echoed an email to my students who also faced competitions.

It don’t mean a thing…

…If it ain’t got that swing. As the classic song goes. (Tap along to Duke Ellington.)

Or ZING. Australia’s federal election last Saturday proved a double-disillusion. It flagged questions about the communication skills of key players on the national stage. Without naming names, let’s draw lessons for all those who present through words or music.

Communicate!

Reach out to your listeners, involve them, get to know them. Before a presentation, mix with the masses in the foyer, refer to some by name during your presentation or question time.

Clarity!

Convoluted rambling puts listeners to sleep, however mellifluous the voice, however beautifully modulated and paced. It leads to misplaced expectations.

Customise!

Adapt to different audiences rather than repeat worn out text, slogans and mantras. Listen before you speak. Create fresh, relevant zingers.

Commit to being and giving your best– don’t condescend. 

Never underestimate audience intelligence and insight. They see through ego, fake sincerity, and an attitude that “it’s all about me!”

Concise!

Pithy. To the point. Less is more. It’s easier to speak (or write) long than short.

Congruent – Be yourself

People, whether as audience or voter, want to relate to real people, not puppets or figure heads. Humility and reality cover a multitude of glitches.

WE HAVE LIFT OFF! BOOK LAUNCHES – Burn My LettersBML Cover med

After many drafts, edits and proofs my next book Burn My Letters is off to the printers!

102 Main Street Kangaroo Point (free parking, ferry to Holman St. Terminal)

(Bookings essential: email 0411 782 404 or 07 33002286)

Enjoy live music from Greshka, soprano Lyn Moorfoot and Finlandia sung by Finnish singers; give-aways; author Q&A, as you sip lingonberry saft (or stronger from cash bar) and taste smörgåsar (canapés).

lloyd@sbctc.com.au

Autographed books at launch (RRP $27.99), Paypal or email for bank transfer info.

The International Connection

I’d love to include those who’ve helped me along my journey. Join us at the Brisbane launch via live streaming on YouTube/Google. Or record for later download. (SOS for techies who can make it happen!)

If you order books via PayPal we’ll absorb extra international shipping costs.

Book 2 of the saga will launch in November

BML back cover

It’s written, edited, and will release after yet more edits and proofs.

Thanks, Peter Fenoglio for the luminous covers.

Enjoy reading!

“Playing” music…for free or fee?

Some non-musicians can’t understand that because we “play” music, it’s our livelihood. That we have invested years of decades’ study to finesse our talents. That we still put hours into practice and in many cases into arranging and composing. OK, I’m preaching to the converted. But…

Practice or play?

Why not choose a positive title like “Practice Makes Perfect” someone asked when I published Practice is a Dirty Word: How to clean up your act.

I’m allergic to the words perfect and practice in the same sentence.

practiceIn it I wrote:

Let me explode a myth.
Practice does not make perfect.
Not exactly. Not always. Hey, not ever. Let’s face it, we can’t be perfect.
Even top performers cannot be perfect. None of us can be a hundred percent perfect. Trying to be so is the biggest single cause of nerves, insecurity, depression, low self-esteem. These can cause even the most capable and talented people to give up.
The whole problem is that “practice makes perfect” has been garbled and used as a whip around our ears. Who coined that phrase, anyway? No one admits to it, but the closest we can get to its origin is that the ancient Greek philosopher Periander said: “Practice is everything.” 

But what to call it? Play?

I wrestled to find another word for “practice”. Play is the closest, implying active, creative engagement. (But we know for some it means –er–lack of focus.)

There’s the pitfall…

Some can’t imagine we should be paid real money for mere PLAY.

I must offer professional fees for live musicians at the book launch.

Thank you to those who’ve supported my crowdfunding campaign.Special mention to Althea O’Dee for her heart-warming email:”Congratulations on your new writing project! You inspire me so much. I am working in China at the moment. I’d like to donate to your fund, but when I open the fund-site, it is all in Chinese. Could I donate into your bank account… and you don’t need to send anything in return? I just want to help you, since I already own a couple of your music books, which have really helped me.

We hit the goal! Now to pay musicians at book launchTwoCovers

When my books are between covers, we’ll raise a glass to my wonderful supporters. With live music of course. These talented musicians deserve REAL fees, not mates’ rates.
With extra funds I’ll book a singer and commission son André to arrange Scandinavian music to perform with his gypsy band Greshka).

Because Words and Music are my fortes

There’s a few days left support my campaign. Do check out my crowdfunding site.

Thanks for your support!

 

Novel way to publish books

How to hook a mainstream publisher? That question keeps authors too busy to write their next book. We spend disheartening time on pitching, proposing, publicity. All writers know the pain of rejection.

• Harry Potter and J. K. Rowling were rejected by a dozen publishers, including Penguin and HarperCollins.

• Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was rejected 38 times before publication.

• Orwell’s Animal Farm: “It’s impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”

• To F. Scott Fitzgerald, “You’d have a decent book if you got rid of that Gatsby character.”

TwoCovers

When some publishers are interested and enthusiastic, we’re buoyed and tread on clouds. Until we discover they’re academic or vanity press, offering little recompense for our hard work, intellectual property and writing skills. Even asking us to pay for the privilege of seeing our words between covers. Might as well self-publish.

Last year I swore I wouldn’t indie publish. Even though I have already published books for musicians and teachers through my Words and Music imprint. But I’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign for the last leg of a long journey.

Even print on demand needs outlay of funds. Thanks to my son Paul Bonetti who helped, having successfully crowd funded his second album. (You can hear my clarinet backing on a few tracks.) I’m encouraged by the successful campaign to reprint Brisbane Art Deco, which includes my contribution about my Granddad’s house in St Lucia, Brisbane. Back House main BCC-B54-1976

Granddad (W.A.Back) was a Finnish Swede who emigrated to Australia to escape conscription into the Russian army. When his black sheep brother fled in 1899, Russian military police searched for him in Suez. He dodged them and found refuge in Australia. But why did he write home to “Burn my letters?” A decade’s research found answers to such questions. 

Letter KJ Back 1899:2

A treasure trove of archival letters

I’m blessed that my relatives gifted me with illuminating archival letters. These helped me piece together the story of my forebears.

What an inspiring, empowering story!

There’s a degree of memoir as the books cover:

  • Growing up in the Australian outback
  • Schooling in Brisbane: at Ironside State School, Somerville House and University of Queensland.
  • (Granddad led a consortium that developed St Lucia)
  • Studies, research and work in London, Sweden, Finland and more during 7 years in Europe.
  • My musical and life journey

My books that tell their stories and my own journey to discover heritage are ready to go. But I need help to afford printing. Please support my crowd funding campaign so I can put my books between covers.

http://pozible.com/burnmyletters
It’s going well, but not quite safe yet!

Many thanks in anticipation!

Find your voice to speak/write

Voices reveal all. Writers wrestle to ‘find their voice’ and that of characters.

Public pressure may cause speakers to lose resonance, even voice.

  • Tension causes tight timbre. (Tip: Hum into your head, so you feel vibration in your crown. Hum while opening your nostrils and nasal passages; and while accessing the front “mask” area of your face. Keep your throat open and posture upright.)
  • Insecurity causes ‘up talk’ or that recent trend, ‘vocal fry‘.
  • Tip: Before presenting, find your natural range with a conversational ‘aha’)

Edit, edit and more edit!

Whether you write for the ear or the eye, prune excess words and redraft. 

But my coming book cries ‘no more culls!’ But how to choose between fascinating stories? Rather than publish a brick doorstop tome, I opted for two books:

  • Burn My LettersTwoCovers
  • Midnight Sun to Southern Cross

Curb – or censor?

My characters expressed their voices in archival letters and recorded interviews. 

These and my research unearthed answers to why refugee Karl Johan Back wrote in 1899 to ‘Burn My Letters!’ Under Russian occupied Finland his words were censored. Letters that were saved from the fire uncover insights into his story–and his unique voice. 

Will you help me crowd fund the final leg of a decade long journey?
This week I launch a crowdfunding campaign to publish my next two books. I’ll post a link when it goes live. I offer rewards in return for pledges from $7 up. Books, of course. Scandinavian goodies like home-baked Finnish gingerbread. 

I’m excited! It’s countdown to campaign lift off. I hope you will come aboard. 

More on my Facebook page.

Enjoy the journey as I have done with its discovery. 

April opportunity – coaching and presentation NZ, Adelaide

As I fly there for other bookings, I can offer presentations and coaching without usual travel costs. Email for available dates.